The Art Of: Taming the Current After nearly three decades of training, Laura Goodwin '99 accomplished her lifelong dream: to swim the English Channel.
Standing on the shores of northern France, Laura Goodwin ’99 threw her arms over her head into the victory pose. She’d just fulfilled her lifelong dream: to swim the English Channel.
Her journey to the finish line required countless hours of training and sacrifice. A successful Channel swim is a feat claimed by fewer people than summit Mount Everest. And Goodwin, at 9 years old, knew she wanted to be on that list.
Goodwin, who owns the coaching business “Easy To Tri,” has been swimming for more than 30 years, including on W&L’s swim team, under the guidance of Coach Kiki Jacobs. In addition to improving her technique and endurance, she noted that Jacobs instilled in her the importance of balancing athletics with her coursework.
“There’s no way I would ever have been the same swimmer without that experience,” said Goodwin, who majored in biology. “I think that’s one of the great things about the liberal arts is that it does focus on the whole person.” In 2018, she “mentally committed” to the swim and began documenting the process online (easytotri.com/blog). It required more than a demanding training schedule. There was a long laundry list of items to attend to: finding a boat, securing a crew, arranging visas, booking a swim date, etc.
There were a few setbacks that pushed back her timeline, including COVID. However, in March 2022, the plan was put in action. Four months before the swim, she moved her four-person family to England to complete the final stages of preparation, including training in UK waters with the Durley Sea Swimmers of Bournemouth and Swim Bournemouth Masters.
After a two-week taper, a last-minute transportation scramble, hotel room key issues, and scarfing down her final meal (a grocery store salmon sandwich), Goodwin got a text at 8 p.m.the night of July 10: the swim was on.
When she arrived at the dock the next morning, the water lay pancake flat. After reviewing the plan with the crew, she strapped on her goggles and tried to breathe. At 7:30 a.m. — after more than three decades of training — she took the plunge.
Goodwin started the swim off strong, expecting conditions to get choppy as the day went on. Yet as she pummeled through icy water and a few jellyfish, the weather prevailed. Over the next few hours, Goodwin focused on her stroke technique modeled after German swimmer Florian Wellbrock. And she was also thinking about something less expected: chocolate milk. Nesquik is her unique choice of beverage for her “feeds,” breaks along the route where she fueled up every 45 minutes by having her crew toss a buoy out to her packed with the dairy goodness.
“I think the crux of this experience is mental strategies, and how you get through it when you’re in thewater for such a long time. Someone told me: ‘Don’t look at England, don’t look at France — just swim to your next feed,’” she said. “And that’s what I told myself: If you swim for another hour, somebody’s going to give you chocolate milk.”
In the end, a cultivation of passion, training, patience and a splash of good luck propelled Goodwin across the Channel — in 10 hours and 44 minutes, more than an hour faster than she anticipated and nearly three hours under the average crossing time. On the beach in Calais, France, she celebrated her accomplishment of a lifetime.